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RAMBLES IN YUCATAN.*
ACCORDING to the cyclical theory of his- the colonial civilisations with the patorical interpretation, which was for rent, throughout the ancient world. merly very fashionable, and which It is our firm persuasion that the hisprevails extensively even in our day, tory of no nation or people that has the history of nations is nothing but a been preserved conflicts with the correcord of successive revolutions. They rectness of the progressive theory of move in their appointed courses like man, to which we have so frequently the heavenly bodies, through the seve- avowed our allegiance. ral phases of rise, progress, and decline, Having thus renewed our profession -their morning, noon, and night;- of faith, we wish to add that in our with this difference, however, from opinion by far the most serious and their type, that the nation is supposed formidable difficulty that the ingeto disappear at night, and its place to nuity of man has yet been able to be supplied in the horizon by a new array against our favorite view of this people and a new civilisation. The subject is to be found, not in the decayed friends of this doctrine of course reject and ruined institutions of what writers the theory of progress entirely. They have been pleased to call the Old see in the increased experience of na- World, -not that Thebes and Pal. tions, in the multiplied experiments in myra, and Antioch and Petræa should government and in life, which are trea- be in ruins, and that wild Arabs should sured up in history and in the memo- lie down at night with their camels in ries of men, no enlarged capabilities for the deserted halls which once blazed happiness, nor any new sources of en- with the magnificence of mighty kings. joyment which are not counterbalanced We know for what those cities have by a corresponding increase of suscep- been exchanged. They have left their tibility to the “ slings and arrows of sign upon the institutions of posterity. outrageous fortune." To such this life We can now look over the earth and offers no future. They anticipate forbehold the heirs of all that ancient their form of civilisation no immunity glory, might, majesty, and dominion. from the disastrous fate with which History shows us the processes, too, of elder nations have been visited.
its transmission, and assures us that We need not say that we entertain no nothing material was lost in the desympathy with this mode of interpret- scent. But what has become of the ing the history of the past. Weare will- multitudinous races of men who once ing to admit that the progress of civil- inhabited the American continent, the isation has been revolutionary; but only memorials of whose existence not that its advance, like the moon's, now remaining were written upon the has been “ but its progress to decay.” surface of the earth probably more We venture to believe that the forms of than three thousand years ago ? What organized society may have died out, has become of the builders and inhatheir constitutions, their laws, their so- bitants of those stupendous ruins cial and political customs may have which perchance were antiquities perished, or have undergone complete when the shepherd's hut of Faustulus transmutation—but the important prin- was the only habitation of man to be ciple which it had been the mission of seen over all those seven hills which each nation to evolve, has been presery- were one day to sustain upon their ed and bequeathed to the world. Nay, ample shoulders the great city of the we believe, farther, that a careful stu. Cæsars ? Ruins of temples which may dent of history may measure and prove have been historical when Solomon the value of the bequests by comparing was laying the foundations of the first
* Rambles in Yucatan ; including a Visit to the Remarkable Ruins of Chi-Chen, Kabah, Zayi, and Uxmal. By a Modern Antiquary. New York: J. and H. G. Langley. 1842.
temple ever raised by the hand of man cation; but the public having been to the honor and glory of the true God. already made acquainted with Mr. Ruins of palaces in which Phidias and Norman through other channels, we Praxiteles might have gone to study feel no hesitation now in speaking of ancient masters; solemn sepulchres of himself and his valuable book with as the dead, now made more solemn by much freedom, as if his name appeared their desolation, which were reared to in the title page. receive the remains of those who per Mr. Norman tells us, that he sailed haps could have told us
from New Orleans in the month of
November, 1841, with the intention of " How the world looked when it was
passing the winter in the warm climate fresh and young,
of some of the Central American And the great deluge still had left it Islands. In the progress of his travels, green.”
he is induced to change his destina
tion for Yucatan. He arrives at Sisal, What, we ask again, has become of a sea port town, on the western coast of all that life, that power, that skill, that that province, on the twentieth of genius, which must have presided over
December. He passes four months the civilisation of ANCIENT AMERICA, travelling about in the interior of the and which the earth alone has been country, and the sights which his able to remember? We look in vain eyes there saw, and the wonders of among the present aborigines of this which his ears there heard, are the continent for any trace of a forming burden of the book before us. We and progressive civilisation. On the feel that we can do no more acceptacontrary, centuries of spontaneous ble service to our readers, few of whom growth and development, if unassisted can yet have had access to this very interby the instruction of foreign nations, esting book, than to give a digest of its must elapse before the Indian of North contents, among which will be found deor South America can approach in cul- tails scarcely less extraordinary than tivation and refinement those whom the startling revelations of Belzoni we are compelled to consider his himself. genitors on this continent. Where, we To gather some idea of the spirit ask, or to whom has their wisdom been with which Mr. Norman started upon bequeathed ? If their national life and his excursion, we extract the followdecease was but preparatory to a new ing paragraph from his opening chapand more extended civilisation, where ter : is the final result? We confess that these questions are not free froin em
" The prospect of leaving one's counbarrassment to the doctrine of progress. try for a season, affects different people in We can only answer that it is more
very dillerent ways. To some, it sugprobable that the theory should be gests only the loss of friends, and the want correct with all the facts in its favor made to them the necessaries of life. By
of the conveniences which habit may have but one, and that the exception should their forinidable equipments, their groanbe apparent only, than that its incon- ing trunks, and systematic leave-takings, sistency with all the facts but one they intimate a foregone conclusion, that should be only apparent, and that it every nation except their own is peopled should ultimately prove to be altoge- with Ishmaelites, whose hands are ever ther erroneous.
raised against the rest of mankind. There We have been led into this train of is another class, who have faith in man thought by the perusal of a work, the wherever he exists, and who rely upon the title of which we have placed at the permanenee of the laws of Nature; who head of this article. The author, with do not imagine that a man is necessarily a very becoming though quite unneces
a cannibal or a troglodyte because born sary modesty, has concealed his name
in a different degree of latitude, nor that under the nom-de-guerre of " A Mod. water will refuse to run down hill at a ern Antiquary. The merit of his fidence in the uniformity of Nature's laws,
foreigner's request. Through their conwork is such, that we should not proba- they feel it unnecessary to equip themselves bly have hesitated to invade the sanctity of the author's baptismal privi- leave their native land, always presuming
for a campaign into chaos when they leges, so far as to announce his name every corner of this planet, however reto the world, had we no other justifi- mote from the illuminating centres of civi
lisation, to be possessed of some of the jority of whom are Indians and halfelements of existence, such as air, fire, wa
breeds. ter, &c., which a traveller may spare him “ The city was founded in 1542. From self the trouble of bringing from home in the few scattered facts which have been his trunk. With the latter class, kind handed down to us by history, we gather reader, the author of the following notes that, prior to the Spanish conquest, there deserves to be associated, He would re- existed in Yucatan a people of an origin quire nothing but a valise to contain his remote and unknown, who were under outfit for a circumnavigation of the globe, the subjection of rulers, with fixed prinand would include the moon in his cir- ciples of law and order; had passed cuit, if practicable, without materially en- through the ordinary vicissitudes of nalarging his equipage, except, perhaps, by tions, and finished their career by losing, some device that would diminish the in at once, their liberty and their dominions. conveniences of a rarefied atmosphere. The triumphant forces of the Spaniards This faith in the future, this trust in the having obtained full possession of the resources which a mind of ordinary intel- country, the church came in to execute ligence can always command under any its part; and their language, manners, sun and in any clime, sustained the writ- customs, and religion, were disseminated er in his determination, last fall, to visit by the steady and persevering arm of some of the islands of the West India seas, Catholic power and management, Το almost without notice, and with scarcely complete the work, everything that had more preparation than a domestic man a tendency to remind the vanquished of would deem essential for an absence the past, was obliterated, in accordance from home of a single week. The cork with the grovelling policy or the blind legged merchant of Rotterdam did not fanaticism that marked the times. Ancommence his journeyings more unex- cient pictorial and hieroglyphical manupectedly to himself, nor less formidably scripts were burnt; their idols, images, panoplied against the emergencies of his and planispheres, were destroyed, and adventurous tour. To the writer's unpre- their temples and cities were razed to the paredness, a term which, in such cases, ground. It is melancholy to reflect that usually signifies freedom from anxiety, he, a chasm has thus been made in the early feels indebted for most of the pleasure history of the country, which the histowhich this excursion has afforded him; rian must despair of ever seeing filled up. and he has only cause to regret the want
“ Merida, since it was rebuilt, has not of more elaborate preparation, inasmuch rendered itself in anywise historical. Its as it may have deprived these pages of a remote and isolated position has prevented portion of their interest and value.” its participation, to any extent, in the
political struggles which have marked the Sisal, the place at which Mr. Nor. history of the city of Mexico; and the inman disembarked, is the second port selves of their peace and political com
habitants appear to have availed themof the province, and during the prevalence of the northerly winds unsafe. posure by a cultivation of letters, and It has about one thousand inhabitants, certainly unsurpassed in any province of
general mental cultivation, to an extent compounded of Indians and Mexicans.
Mexico." He left the second day after his arrival for Merida, the capital of the coun. The author then speaks of the streets, try, and thirty-six miles from Sisal. Of the squares, which ihroughout the proMerida he thus discourses :
vince are sadly neglected; the markets,
the trade, the climate, the public “Merida, the capital of Yucatan, is buildings, &c. &c. Upon the subject situated about the twenty-first degree of of trade throughout Yucatan, he seems north latitude, and is elevated some to have but one opinion, that it is twenty-five feet above the level of the trifling, and under the influence of the sea. The thermometer ranges at about Yucatan climate and government, must eighty of Fahrenheit, and the maximum
continue trifling. length of the days is nearly thirteen hours.
He illustrates the business activity The city was built upon the ruins of an Indian town, which was destroyed by the of Merida, by stating that he has freSpaniards in their superstitious zeal, so quently in crossing the great public madly manifested in the destruction of square, disturbed the buzzard and killeverything throughout Mexico that was deer at noon day. The trades and profound belonging to the people whom they fessions are mostly filled by half-breeds had conquered. The present population and Indians; and whenever an article is calculated at twenty thousand, the ma- is to be made to order, a portion-about
one half of the purchase money must est. A fractional sort of change, howbe paid in advance, that the contractor ever, is represented by the seeds of the may be in funds to purchase stock. cacao, two hundred and fifty grains of Men do the millinery and mantua- which are considered equal to sixpence. making work for the other sex, and Of these, five grains constitute the smallladies' dresses are suspended upon the est amount ever received in trade. In door-ways of the houses, to attract a
some of the provinces of the Mexican con. kind of custom which with us is wholly laling medium, and lose none of their esti,
federacy, pieces of soap pass as a circuengrossed by the fairer sex. Manus factories are nowhere to be seen; the the balance of exchange should not be
mated value for a few washings, provided clatter of the loom, or the noise of the such as to carry it out of the district hammer, never disturbs the streets of where it is known. The great scarcity of Merida.
money tends to reduce everything else in
an equal ratio. Servants' wages are from « Commercial transactions are limited three to five dollars a month, and those of to the supply of retail dealers in the city mechanics are at a proportionate rate. and country. The principal articles of Rents are almost a nominal charge. This trade are dry goods, imported from Eng- is partially produced by the number of unland and France, by the way of the Balize tenanted buildings that are decaying withand Havana. The exportation of the out occupants." products of the country is conducted through the same channel; but owing to Speaking of the church of Jesus, the poverty of the soil, and the supine- which is attached to a monastery of ness of the people, it is likewise very cir- Jesuits, our traveller takes occasion to cumscribed. On the whole, so far as my describe one of the ceremonies which personal observation has yet extended, the land presents a barrenness of appear
is, we believe, peculiar to the church ance which offers few of those induce- at Merida, but which might by some ments that have been held out for emigra- be thought worth propagating. It tion, either to the husbandman or the was at vespers; the congregation being mechanic.
composed mostly of Indians : “ The agricultural products of Yucatan are numerous. Corn, resembling that of “ After the usual ceremonies were conNew England, which constitutes one of cluded, a large Indian prostrated himself the principal articles of food, and from upon the floor before the altar, carefully which tortillas are prepared, is raised adjusted his limbs, and laid himself out, as here in great abundance. Also black if he were preparing for burial. Men, beans, so well known to travellers by the with coils of rope about their heads, rename of frejoles, constitute an agricultural presenting crowns of thorns, dressed in staple of the country. Heniken is culti- loose garments, and bending under the vated, and prepared for exportation, to a weight of a heavy cross, then entered and considerable extent. It is known in the tottered up the aisles. A cross and skull United States as “ Sisal hemp,' and takes were then passed around; the bearer reits name from the port whence it is ship- peating in Latin as they were handed to ped. It is indigenous, and grows upon a be kissed, · This is the death, and this is rocky and apparently barren soil to the the judgment ! When this form had height of about twelve feet, from a short been concluded, we were all supplied with rough trunk. It is cut at a certain pe- whips, (I declined to avail myself of their riod, and the fibres drawn out and dried, politeness), the lights were extinguished, after which it is prepared and put up for and all was darkness. Nothing was vithe market. Sugar and cotton are raised sible but the gigantic windows, and the in some of the eastern districts; but very outlines of the stupendous arches and little attention is paid to their cultivation fretted walls above us. The chamber of beyond the small demand for the home death was never more silent than was consumption. Hats, from the leaf of the that church for the moment. While I was palm, are manufactured in the interior in speculating upon what would probably large quantities for exportation, and are occur next in the order of exercises, my shipped at Campeachy. They are known meditations were suddenly interrupted by in our market as the · Campeachy hat.' the sounds of stripes rising and echoing
“ Some idea of the wealth or poverty of through every part of the vast edifice. a country may be formed from an ac- That there was whipping going on, I had quaintance with its currency. Silver is no doubt; but whether each did his own the basis of the circulation of Yucatan, of whipping, or had it done by his neighbors, which the Spanish sixpence is the small- I was, for some time, unable to satisfy